Peak Design has been making a name for itself for a while now, mainly in the world of photography gear. I count myself as an early fan, getting their Everyday Backpack a few years ago as a Kickstarter backer. (While this bag could be used for anything, it worked especially well as a camera bag.)
Now, Peak Design has fully crossed over into making general travel gear with their carry-on size 45-liter Travel Backpack.
I was skeptical initially, having read one particularly negative review. But having fully put it to the test on a recent trip to Italy, I must say I’m extremely impressed.
Seriously, this backpack is amazing. It may well be the best backpack I’ve reviewed.
As you can probably tell, this is going to be quite a gushing review — so let me quickly mention that I don’t do any sponsored content and my opinions are entirely my own. I just happen to like this backpack a lot.
You can find out more about the Peak Design 45L on the official site, but if you want to know my thoughts, then read on.
- Incredible design, full of beautiful touches
- Highly versatile (35L expands to 45L)
- Great materials & holds its shape
- High rain resistance with weather-sealed zippers
- Removable sternup strap can be a little easy to lose (best kept stowed)
Watch my video review
The 45L Travel Backpack has a ton of clever features. So many that it really pays off to watch some of Peak Design’s tutorial videos to understand everything it can do. Even after using it for several months, I kept being reminded of its many functionalities.
Using it also feels good, much like an Apple product (or just think of your own favourite brand). All the little touches — like the magnetic pouches, hidden straps, and clever storage spaces — create a totally fluid experience.
That said, something I appreciate about its design is its restraint. Other backpacks I’ve tried in the premium category, such as the Nomatic Travel Bag or the Tortuga Outbreaker, tend to go a little overboard. They tack on too many features, use too heavy materials, or end up putting in so many compartments that they feel tight or cluttered. Some features only look good in Kickstarter videos, but you don’t end up really using in practice.
Not so with the Peak Design backpack, where every feature is truly there for a reason. It manages to stay light, and despite including numerous storage spaces it maintains a very high degree of accessibility.
Despite its sturdy 400D nylon shell, which holds its shape when unloaded, this backpack weighs a very reasonable 2.05 kg (4.5 lb).
The 45L Travel Backpack is fully carry-on size compliant, though this does come with an asterisk.
By default it has a capacity of 35 liters, putting it well within any airline carry-on size limits. But if you need just a bit of extra space, you can expand it to 45L, truly making this an all-purpose travel bag.
When it’s expanded, it may be too big for some particularly stringent airlines. I’ve often flown successfully with carry-on bags that are just a tad too big when fully loaded (such as the Tortuga Setout 45 or the Osprey Porter 46), so this may not be such a huge issue. Officially though, you’ll be slightly over the limit when it’s fully expanded.
At 35L it’s a perfect weekender bag or ideal for a light packer. I like to keep it at this size for a trip of 7 days or less. For a longer backpacking trip, or when nomading or going on a long holiday, I would expand it to 45 liters. So long as you don’t overstuff it, you should be okay.
I must confess that I’m normally not that into getting official accessories with a backpack. Usually, these are just overpriced items designed to upsell you after you’ve added the backpack to your shopping cart. It’s often easier just o get some cheap packing cubes on Amazon.
But in this case, I do recommend getting the Peak Design accessories.
They truly let you get the most out of this backpack and use it as one integrated system. The toiletry bag, electronics pouch, and packing cubes are all just as thoughtfully designed and fit the backpack exactly.
Packing cubes: these are some of the nicest packing cubes I’ve used. Not too rigid. You can either use them as one big cube or divide the space into two. A mesh shows you what’s inside.
Toiletry bag: lots of little storage spaces, plus a pouch that closes by itself using hidden magnets. Great for keeping small stuff like Q-tips (cotton buds) or contact lenses. The toiletry bag fits exactly in the backpack’s front compartment.
Electronics pouch: again, loads of little storage spaces for cables, SD cards, etc. Amazing if you’re a digital nomad or just travel with many electronics.
Despite most elements of the suspension system being fully stowable, I find this backpack very comfortable to wear. The back padding is fantastic and the two main straps are just perfect, only rarely making me feel like they’re cutting into my shoulders at all. The waist straps are stowable and are a little on the thin side, but they do the job just fine.
One flaw that I found when taking this bag on my first trip is the sternum strap. It is detachable on both sides, which is wonderful if you want to adjust it to your chest height. Unfortunately, this also makes it easy to come loose. When I retrieved it back from the luggage carousel at the airport for the first time, it came back to me sans sternum strap.
I should have probably carefully attached it on both sides, and not let it bungle from one end (oops, my bad). Luckily, the strap was easily replaced for $10. But if you want to hold on to your adjustable sternum strap, it’s wise to attach it securely or to put it in a side pocket when checking-in.
If you’re a serious traveler looking for a serious backpack, then you should definitely check out Peak Design’s Travel Backpack. Simply put, I think it blows other premium backpacks out of the water — even the Minaals, Outbreakers, and Nomatics.
The materials used are amazing, the bag constantly surprises you with its convenient features (while still maintaining a minimalistic design), and it feels like a backpack that’s made to last.
The price tag of $299 (or up to $399 if you include all accessories) might not make this a backpack for everyone. If you don’t have quite the budget for this backpack I can recommend the cheaper Tortuga Setout or Osprey Farpoint.
However, if you want the very best, then the Peak Design Travel Backpack is an incredible investment that also comes with a guarantee for life.
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Thank you for the great review!
Checking in to see how the pack has held up over time (if you’re still using it). I’m testing it out at home, and unfortunately I’m a pack it to max person still. I’m worried how the shoulder straps will hold up over time with regular 45L loads.
I have used it on and off since 2019. The exterior is pretty scruffed now but the straps are still going strong.
However I’d say that the straps are best suited for air travel or trips where you don’t wear it for very long periods (e.g. over an hour). The new Tortuga backpack is better for adventure trips where you want extra comfort on the straps.
Thank you for your detailed review and video! I appreciate your appraisal of the accessories, too.
Question: Have you travelled with the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45 L as a carry on Air France or KLM flights? Worried about the specs being a centimeter over, as you mentioned in your review. Thanks for your guidance!
Yeah I have flown with it. When it’d in expanded mode it’s slightly over the limit, but as long as it’s not truly packed to the max, the staff are not likely to notice. I think 1 centimeter is not such a big deal
Do you feel the rain cover is necessary for the Peak Design Travel Pack? My sense is that you can really do quite fine without a rain cover for this pack.
25 years ago I backpacked around East and southeast Asia for a year and I recall only using my rain cover a few times – and it was when I chose to walk in the rain instead of wait it out. More important was the rain resistance of my daypack which I had on me daily for excursions/hikes/motorcycle when waiting out a rain storm wasn’t always an option. O
The rain-resistant zippers and material on this pack are really good so yeah in most cases it should be no problem.
I’ve only rarely used rain covers… the last time was while hiking 5 hours through a jungle in Colombia with constant downpours where this was actually necessary. In normal situations I never use one. I’ve carried this pack for probably about 1 hour max through the rain & no problems.
With the updated Osprey Farpoint 55 fixing some of the issues you had with it, do you still think the Peak Design is worthy of the $80 premium?
Hi Will, good question. I did only a quick review of the FP55 so far but I’m really liking the changes. I think the choice comes down to aesthetics and accessories mostly as both are very good bags. Peak Design is still my main bag for e.g. city trips in Europe, I like the FP a bit more for outdoorsy backpacking trips.
Great review, thank you!
Awesome review. I am looking this for the modular approach, camera requirements are not needed on every trip and I would also like to use it as an everyday carry with the 35L option and short night stays (if we ever get back to this)
As I cannot get to see this and try this I am unsure as a 6ft 3inch (191cm) male if the 35l is too big for an everyday carry. I mean I don’t think it is but as you have access you would be able to give a better review. Obviously the other use case is travelling on this is multiple night trips with tech kit including camera kit and general carry on clothing
Hey Michael, I’m 194cm so we are about the same height. I would say that at 35L, the bag is perfect for a weekend or multi-night trip. For daily carry, I honestly prefer to go with something like a 20-25l. To be honest, the Peak Design is definitely a “luggage backpack”, and for camera carry it’s good for getting gear to a fixed location. But as a walkaround bag, it may be just a tad too big, but that’s just me!
Thank you very much for a great review. I recently purchased the Peter McKinnon Nomadic bag specifically for camera equip’t, but I was also looking for the flexibility for something that was customizable depending on the reason for the trip.
Let me first say that the Peter McK/Nomatic Camera backpack is a premium quality well thought out product, plush inside with plenty of pockets, but b/c of the camera bias and rigidity of construction it is also slightly limiting in what you can get in it. Lastly the price is comparable with the Peak Design 45L backpack.
I’m interested to know about construction of the PD 45L, you mentioned that it keeps it’s form even when empty. Is there a hidden wire frame or reinforcement that facilities this or is it just foam pading in the walls of the bag. Also I’m a little suspicious of the rotating back suspension straps, how robust are they in comparison to traditional fixed straps?
Many thanks in anticipation of your response, and again, thanks for a great written and video review.
Hi Tim. I have not yet had the chance to look at the Peter McKinnon edition Nomatic but I can comment on the Peak Design 45L. I would describe it as ‘rigid but flexible’. For the most part, it’s just foam lining that holds its shape. There is also about a 3-inch deep wall all around the pack (on the side hugging the wearer’s back) that also has another stiffer material inside it, perhaps foam plus something else. There is no metal or plastic frame or skeleton inside. In practice, it holds its shape but I also find it sufficiently malleable to fit into tight spaces or overpack a bit if needed.
As to the rotating suspension straps, I agree these could appear to be a weak point. What I can say is that after using it for nearly 2 years (the Peak Design has been my main backpack personally) it’s still working fine with no signs of wear or any potential failure. I guess I can’t know for sure about the very long term though! But yeah they seem strong enough for me not to have ever worried about it.
Thanks for your kind words about the review and I hope this helps!
Thanks for this in-depth review. I too have the peak design everyday backpack 30L and have used it as my camera bag primarily and travel bag! My wife and I both have it and use it on short and long trips. We even got away with using it for over a month in Hungary and Romania as our travel/camera bag! I am very interested in updating to the peak design travel bag 45L and I think that when I get the extra cash, I may pull the trigger!
I’m interested to know your thoughts on their travel dufflepack 65L… I think that this is a great mesh between the two (a duffle bag and backpack), but the 65L prevents the option of carry-on!
Again, thanks for the this review, Cheers
Jason from ArboursAbroad
Hey Jason. You two must be well versed in the art of minimalistic packing to manage with only the 30L, nicely done! 🙂
I haven’t seen yet touched the 65L duffel and only have the 35L duffel, which I think is nice as a duffel but very poor in backpack mode (with no suspension system at all and you have to take off the side handles to use as backpack straps, but they fall off very easily). I’ve seen that the 65L is much closer to the 45L Travel Bag in terms of its suspension system, so I can see the appeal in that one much more. Sadly I don’t have hands-on impressions to share!